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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Jim Connaughton
Jim Connaughton
CEQ Director

September 20, 2004

Jim Connaughton

Good afternoon everyone. About an hour from now, I will have the long-awaited pleasure of hosting the Presidentially appointed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy at the White House to receive their final report and recommendations. I will be joined by Commerce Secretary Evans, Interior Secretary Norton, Science Advisor Marburger and a number of other Presidential Advisors to discuss the Commission's hard work over these last three years and where we can enthusiastically go from here. The President will shortly be issuing a statement which I hope you all read. And now for your questions!

Jerry, from Brooklyn, NY writes:
who else is on this commission? do all of them work at the White House with you?

Jim Connaughton
The Commission was established by the Oceans Act of 2000 and the Commissioners were appointed by the President in the Fall of 2001. The Commissioners are outside experts selected from a bi-partisan list prepared by the Senate, the House, and the Administration. They represent a broad range of interests -- science, business, policy, etc. The Commission is chaired by Admiral James Watkins, a naval officer and later Chairman of the AIDS Commission and then Secretary of Energy in the first Bush Administration.

While we in the White House and Administration have worked closely with the Commission to be sure they have had all the support they need, the Commission is completely independent of the Administration.

They have produced and important and very useful report.

Oliver, from Bethesda Maryland writes:
Mr. Connaughton,Please tell me more about this report. Where is it found? Is it avail to the public? I do not live on the ocean but live near the Chesapeake Bay and that has many pollution problems so I am interested in learning what is being done to help.

Jim Connaughton
The Commission has its own, very detailed website, with everything you would want to see. The address is:

The Bush Administration has set up a corresponding website to keep folks informed about our activity. Its address is:

Deanne, from Tulsa writes:
Are only the oceans discussed in this report? And of course are only the states that touch the oceans discussed? Because I feel like all of the states should be discussed because the oceans affect all of us. Thank you.

Jim Connaughton
Glad to hear someone from Tulsa wondering about the scope of the report on oceans!

The Commissioners wisely took a broad view of their mission. They recognized the importance of the oceans not only to people who live in coastal states, but to all Americans who depend on the oceans for the transport of goods, for food and recreation, and for the legacy of wondrous natural and cultural resources they hold. In addition, they recognized, as do we in the Administration, that actions taken far inland can have effects that reach the oceans through streams and rivers and even through the air. That is why the Commissioners asked for comment from all 50 governors.

We are all in this together.

Bob, from Scranton PA writes:
Mr. Connaughton,How exactly is the report presented to the President? Do you go over it with him and give him your recommendations?

Jim Connaughton
The report will be formally delivered in a few minutes to key members of what is called the Domestic Policy Council -- which consists of key Cabinet Secretaries (e.g. Commerce, Environmental Protection, Interior, Transportation, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Defense, even State) and senior advisors to the President who address issues relevant to oceans policy.

My office has been coordinating this group over the last three years to be sure that the President has stayed up to date on the Commission as it proceeded with its work. For example, when the Commission issued its preliminary report last April, we provided an extensive briefing to the President specifically on the report. Also during this time, however, we have not sat by waiting for the Commission to complete its work. The President has moved forwards on a number of oceans policy issues and launched new initiatives to address them: such as new technologies for doing deep-sea oceans research, better ways to sustainably manage our fisheries, restoring, improving and protecting at least 3 million acres of wetlands over the next five years, and new legislation that will strengthen the management of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA -- whose important work has been very much in the public's eye in responding to the recent hurricanes).

Vicki, from Wilmington writes:
Shouldn't the government start putting limits on how much fish people can catch? There's so much food that goes to waste and we're just watching as these fish stocks get depleted.

Jim Connaughton
Fish are one of our most important and abundant sources of nutritious food. Fishing has a long and proud tradition of supported working families and communities in America for centuries. There actually is a long history of placing reasonable limits on how much fish can be caught and when in order to be sure stocks can be sustained and are available into the future. Currently some stocks are in trouble from over-fishing, some are stable, and some are making a comeback. That is why we are focused not only on improving our ability to do the science necessary to set such limits in the future, but also on working at the local level with fishermen and their communities to improve the way regional fisheries are managed to make this process even more reliable and fair for fishermen, while providing a stronger assurance of future stocks.

This requires a lot of collaboration and discussion, but real progress is being made. Even more can and needs to be made.

Bob, from New Orleans writes:
One of our biggest concerns in Louisiana is the rate at which we're losing wetlands. What does this report recommend be done to stop this problem?

Jim Connaughton
Thanks for the regional question Bob.

Many of you may not be aware that for a variety of natural and human-related reasons, the wetlands along the coasts in Louisiana are eroding at a significant rate -- one estimate suggests we are losing 34 square miles every year.

This area is enormously rich in natural resources and commercial benefit (seafood, energy and transportation) not just to the people of Louisiana, but to the nation as a whole.

The Commission report highlights this problem and supports the increased work of the federal government in partnership with the State of Louisiana to craft near and long term restoration strategies to address. The Bush Administration recently released a draft strategy that it prepared with the state, which proposed a series of engineering and restoration projects over the next 10 years that will start the effort. Along with the State, we are also working to educate people and members of Congress who are not from Louisiana about the nature of the problem and seek their support for action.

Jim Connaughton
Thanks for your questions and the strong interest in the future of our oceans. I wish I had more time to answer all of them. I am on my way out the door to meet with the Commission. I urge all of you to log on and see what they have to say. I also urge all of you to become directly engaged in the protection and conservation of our oceans, and to get involved particularly at the local level to make a difference.